The Kansas City Star reports on the recent settlement of a class action alleging age discrimination against Sprint Nextel Corp. The case involved about 1,700 former employees and settled for $57 million. The plaintiffs alleged that Sprint targeted for layoff employees age 40 and older. Sprint denied the charges.
The case is noteworthy for the amount of discovery that was conducted. Two million pages of documents were exchanged and 600 depositions were taken.
The class in this case did somewhat better financially than the plaintiffs in a similar case in Georgia that was recently resolved. The average settlement in the Georgia case was about $6,000 per plaintiff, while in the more recent case the average was $20,330.
The court has yet to rule on the plaintiffs' attorneys' application to approve about $19 million in fees.
Age discrimination class actions continue to hold the potential for expensive and risky litigation that can cost major employers large amounts of money. For smaller employers the prospect of defending multi-plaintiff cases can be even more dangerous since the cost of defense and the potential verdicts can easily outstrip the company's available resources. Thus, as a general rule every termination decision, and certainly every decision to terminate multiple employees, should be made only with the assistance of experienced employment counsel.